Lauren didn't know how to feel for a long time. She and her mother hardly spoke as the preparations for the funeral were being made.
Nothing could have prepared her for the feeling of losing her father, even if it wasn't so sudden. Even if she knew it was going to happen, she never would have been prepared for this kind of feeling. She never could have been prepared for this empty place in her heart.
She couldn't go into many rooms of her father's house. She only got to stay here with her mother - who had come from London to be with Lauren for these few weeks - until after the funeral. Then the house would be put back on the market and Lauren would go back to her small, cheap flat.
There were many things she couldn't do, many places she couldn't go, many things she couldn't think about, because of the pain that came with them. She knew that she was the only one that was really affected by his loss. Her mother hadn't spoken to her father in years, since Lauren was grown up and out of their custody, and sure, other friends mourned him, Lauren was the only family he had left.
She didn't know how to behave. Part of her wanted to scream, to cry, to break something. Other parts of her wanted to simply move on.
The end result was that she was numb. She hadn't cried, even after the initial shock.
Even as much as she avoided it, she still saw everything she saw reminded her of him. Everything she ate, she was reminded of a meal she shared with her father. Every room of the house, she saw him.
Her father's coworkers wore stripes to the funeral. A tribute to what he wore to work every day.
Lauren finally burst into tears.
She'd avoided stripes more than anything else. He always wore stripes. Every day. Lauren remembered getting him striped shirts and ties for his birthday every year. He always loved wearing stripes. Lauren always did too, as a child. Stripes always reminded her of him. No matter where she was - though she was never too far away - it brought them together.
Her own dress was just plain black. She couldn't bring herself to wear something more.
Now she was a mess.
She didn't stop crying even until the people started to leave after the funeral. She vaguely felt people hugging her, vaguely heard many whispered 'condolences,' and much more, but she was never really there for any of it.
Until a man she didn't know came up to her, holding a shoebox.
"This is what he left," said the man, holding it out to her.
Lauren looked at the shoebox dumbly. It took her a minute to realize that she was meant to grab it. She took the box, removing the lid, and looking inside. She only looked for a moment before looking up back up and meeting the man's eyes.
"No," she said, shaking her head.
"No," she repeated. She put the lid on the box again, holding it under her arm. She pointed to herself. "This is what he left. I'm what he left. He didn't leave random things, objects that any person could have. He left me."
The next day, Lauren wore stripes.